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Smoking: a costly habit in search of a home

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This coming October, the Tokaido Shinkansen will fete its 60th anniversary. With an unparalleled record for speed, safety and efficiency since its initial run on October 1, 1964, it has much to celebrate.

Not content to rest on their laurels, the trains in its network have continuously made changes to keep abreast of market demands.

In June 2021, the shinkansen dropped its onboard pay telephones, first installed in 1965. They had been rendered largely unnecessary owing to the ubiquity of mobile phones.

From 2007, smoking cars on the N700 series trains had already been eliminated, replaced by designated smoking rooms. On March 16 of this year, the Tokai, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen lines announced they would remove these rooms.

According to Weekly Playboy (April 1) the three lines offered the rationale that "In recent years greater attention is being paid to health, and the number of smokers has declined."

The Sanyo Shinkansen went a step further and also announced it would remove the smoking corners at a number of stations along the line, which, as the magazine put it, "Makes it harder to light up when arriving at a station."

Weekly Playboy nonetheless has observed that in at least some cities and towns, designated public spaces for smoking have actually been increasing in number. Last December, for example, Sapporo, after experimenting with measures to discourage pedestrians in Odori Park from smoking, opened some new designated smoking areas. They appear to have achieved their purpose as smoking pedestrians seem to have declined. They will remain in operation at least until the end of March 2025.

Meanwhile, the city of Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture reopened a smoking corner near the main rail station last November. After banning smoking in public in 2019, it noticed that discarded cigarette butts on the streets had increased. The city was also receptive to appeals for a place to smoke by visiting tourists.

Osaka City, in the lead-up to hosting the 2025 World Exposition, is said to be planning to open up 120 new smoking spaces.

"When setting up places for smokers, it's necessary to locate them at points with low pedestrian traffic, so that passers-by won't be bothered by secondary smoke," explained Goro Yamashita, president of the Marunouchi, Tokyo-based Cosodo Inc, a company that designs and installs smoking facilities. "But on the other hand there's a need to situate them in places where lots of people congregate. So in recent years, the trend has been to move them indoors. But that raises the problem of higher costs."

With the promulgation of revisions in the public health law from 2020, rules aimed at smokers became more restrictive, and with additional requirements for air cleaners or filters on air conditioning units further raising costs for equipment and installation. According to Yamashita, initial costs for a smoking corner can run between ¥5 to ¥20 million.

"And after that there are running costs, cleaning and other personnel costs, utilities, and so on," Yamashita added. "It's not just something that ends with stubbing out the butt in an ashtray."

With local governments reluctant to devote large amounts of funding for smoking areas, support in some quarters at least has been shifting to the private sector. According to Cosodo's Yamashita, at present about 60 of his smoking areas are operated under his own corporate support. Named THE TOBACCO, they boast a snazzy, modern design suggestive of cafes.

What Weekly Playboy's reporter wanted to know was, does Yamashita's company manage to turn a profit?

"Well, I wouldn't exactly say we're raking it in," he said, while showing a somewhat pained expression. "Our income comes mainly from commercial signage on the premises or sampling surveys. But it would certainly be tough for a municipality to operate a smoking spot that way, as revenue-generating activities are difficult for governments."

"We wanted to be a business that contributes to resolving social issues," Yamashita remarked. "It's difficult for big corporations to involved themselves in the pros and cons of smoking, but it's meaningful for us to take up the challenge.

"I may be putting it a little bluntly, but I believe that considering what the ideal smoking area should be, and then actually creating such places, will help to foster 'social diversity.'"

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

16 Comments
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I can understand local governments' reluctance to fork out large amounts of tax revenues to reduce discarded butts on the sidewalks. Perhaps Japan Tobacco should add ¥5 or ¥10 to the price of each pack of cigarettes, to be diverted to maintaining these smoking facilities. As far as the shinkansen, maybe they can experiment with an open-air caboose.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

There are more than 20 million smokers in Japan, including foreign tourists. While I don't avocate for smoking (on the contrary), and I don't even smoke myself, I have to keep wonder? Why is such much hate in Japan for smokers? 20 million is still a very huge number of the population. Personally I have no issues with dedicated smoking areas, smoking places or clubs, bars and izakayas where smoking is still allowed.

For people above 50 or 60 years old is very hard to quit on smoking, and for them is a real hassle to find a smoking area. This can turn a torture and extra stress to them, artificially created by all those silly restrictions who do not impact anyone else, except the smokers.

People in Japan should be a little more considerate about smokers, or people with tattoos.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

On the subject of smoking......

Watched a show from South Africa last week, "Catch Me a Killer." Very good show, but not why I am commenting. Throughout the show, set in the recent past, we see people in that country smoking. Smoking constantly. Doubtless many people will wonder why the South Africans are shown smoking so much. I remember meeting a South African airline stewardess many years ago, while I was backpacking through Europe, back when I was still smoking. She offered me a cigarette from her country, which I, being naturally curious, accepted. It blew me away (pun intended). I told the young woman that it was absolutely the best tasting cigarette that I had ever tasted. Since then, I have told family and friends that if those cigarettes were readily available, there would be many more people who would be smokers. She explained to me that that brand of cigarette was made exclusively from the tip of the tobacco leaves, which they grow in South Africa, and that is the reason they tasted so good. I have always remembered that. Travel really is educational, although maybe not in the way we expect.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I remember the old smoking cars on the bullet trains. When I had to pass through one, I'd hold my breath before opening the door, and take another one after exiting. They were so gross.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

People shouldn't smoke, that's true. Younger peoples' smoking percentage has gone down each year for over a decade.

As for those of us who still do smoke, no one should worry much. We're dying off. Soon, without the intervention of laws, smoking will dwindle until it's not done anymore.

Don't start smoking. This from a life long smoker. But if you don't you need not be belligerent to those who do. Just ignore us (especially people like me, who make great effort not to bother non-smokers) because soon we'll be gone. Because we smoke, we'll be gone sooner than you think.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Some of the best conversations are amongst that group huddle together outside puffing away. This group has it own little support group when on the work floor plus team cohesion is high. I have never been a pen pusher so I can,t comment on offices which is only a smalls percentage of the work force. I have notice rebuke from non smokers about the smokers getting to have a smoke break.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

DanteKHMar. 21  02:06 pm JST

There are more than 20 million smokers in Japan, including foreign tourists. While I don't avocate for smoking (on the contrary), and I don't even smoke myself, I have to keep wonder? Why is such much hate in Japan for smokers?

Hate for smokers in Japan is nothing compared to many other countries.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

People either don't or can't quit smoking because nicotine, in addition to being a poison, is highy addictive. Leaving aside what it does to other people around you, when you've been smoking for decades and hit 60 years of age your body wll be paying the price. Anything from high blood pressure to heart disase. And you will be paying thse medical bills.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Smoking rooms, whether in hotels amusingly advertised as 'non-smoking' or shinkansen, are not airlocked. So you get the stink wafting out of them. Unpleasant.

Maybe they have sorted it but the first thing that hit you at Narita when you walked into the main area, was the faint smell of stale smoke. It's hardly a good first impression.

Japan is a lovely place, but it often smelled unpleasant due to cigarette smoke. I hope that gets fixed.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

...the first thing that hit you at Narita when you walked into the main area, was the faint smell of stale smoke...

That's what it is! I couldn't put my finger on it.

Yep, back in the day, the Joban Line was all smoking. And drinking. And fishy fish stick eating. Ahh, the good ol' days. Except for the smoking, of course.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Rules against smoking are an affront to personal freedom, what a person does is no ones business but their own, government regulations dictating what a person can or cannot do is totalitarianism, and people have been conditioned into blindly accepting mandates from authoritarians.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

So can we please ban smoking indoors already? We're in 2024.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Rules against smoking are an affront to personal freedom, what a person does is no ones business but their own, government regulations dictating what a person can or cannot do is totalitarianism, and people have been conditioned into blindly accepting mandates from authoritarians.

I don't buy this freedom/privacy argument for one minute. We live in a society. Smokers and their elevated related medical conditions are an unfair burden on the medical system (i.e. everyone)

So no, it's not an affront to their personal freedom and it's not their own business.

Their life style choice is an affront to others waiting in line for medical treatment plus an affront to the medical system, and therefore becomes the business of everyone who pays into that system.

All because smokers are inflicting unnecessary harm on themselves and constantly whining that they are all being persecuted.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

While I chose to give up smoking over half a century ago, I could pick it up again today. I loved smoking, so it is hard to criticize those who choose to keep doing it.

Whenever I think about starting up smoking again, I take a deep breath of clean air, and remind myself how pleasant that single experience is for me. Over the years I have known a lot of people with emphysema or lung cancer, and I much prefer the alternative.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Rules against smoking are an affront to personal freedom, what a person does is no ones business but their own, government regulations dictating what a person can or cannot do is totalitarianism

Following that logic, people should not be told that can't litter and it shouldn't be punishable by law. People should be allowed to throw garbage everywhere and do absolutely anything they want, including walking around naked, vandalizing, etc. Because what people do is their own business. In other words, you want anarchy.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Rules against smoking are an affront to personal freedom, what a person does is no ones business but their own, government regulations dictating what a person can or cannot do is totalitarianism, and people have been conditioned into blindly accepting mandates from authoritarians.

The ”Anybody telling me to not do something I want to do whenever and wherever I want regardless of its effects on others is a totalitarian” argument is both selfish, stupid and pathetic at the same time. Nice hat trick.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

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